West business leaders have welcomed the Government’s pledge to contribute £500m to the much-needed rail link from Heathrow Airport to the region.
The commitment, which came from Transport Secretary Justine Greening as part of a new draft aviation policy framework, could now mean building the long-awaited spur line into the airport will go ahead.
As a result, rail journey times from Bath to Heathrow – one of the world’s busiest airports – will be cut, a significant boost for the city’s exporters and a major incentive for overseas businesses to head to the region.
At present, rail travellers to Heathrow have to go to London Paddington and take the Heathrow Express back out to the airport, or change at Reading and catch a bus.
Building the short spur off the Bristol-London mainline into the airport could cut journey times by 30 minutes.
Phil Smith, managing director of business lobbying and services group Business West, called the move “a crucial investment which will help give the region’s economy a global boost”.
He added: “Provision of this easier, faster route is essential for existing businesses and also for inward investment.
“As the Transport Secretary said in her own words, businesses west of Heathrow have been calling for this vital investment for many years.
"The provision of quality infrastructure provides the bedrock for business growth and is vital to ensure continued competitiveness and productivity.
“We are hopeful that this investment marks a significant change in the delivery of quality transport infrastructure to the region which is long overdue.
“For too long large towns and cities west of London have suffered from a lack of investment in key pieces of infrastructure.
“However, together with the electrification programme of the Great Western mainline, businesses across the West can look forward to the roll out of a rail network fit for the twenty first century.”
However, he added it was important that continued growth and expansion of hub airports like Heathrow did not compromise the important role played by crucial regional airports like Bristol Airport.
Business West represents more than 6,000 businesses across its network of chambers of commerce in Bath, Bristol and Gloucestershire.
PUBLICATION: Bath Business News - 18 July 2012